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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Remembering 9/11

It was late afternoon in Sweden. I was home in bed because on September 10, 2001 Doug and I had made our first IVF attempt. A friend called to say that something terrible had happened in New York, Osama Bin Laden was probably involved and I should turn on CNN right away. My first reaction was disbelief...surely my friend was over-reacting. Minutes later, Doug came home from church and ran for the TV. Then it was a frenzy of getting a hold of family, wondering about friends in New York, and worrying about Chicago being the next target. Our Swedish colleagues in the office were nothing but amazingly supportive in their concern and compassion and the entire international community surrounded us with care and empathy. Of course, many members of our church had suffered far greater tragedies, and yet, even so, they understood the gravity of this moment for us.

On this day, my thoughts go immediately to a dear friend of ours who transferred from New York to Stockholm who was present in Manhattan the day of the attacks. It's a hard day for her. I recall the 10th anniversary in Stockholm. We took her out for a boat ride and reveled in the peace-filled beauty that are the Stockholm waterways. Close friends from the London church were also present in New York that day. And my cousins were in New Jersey during that time, considering heading to Manhattan for the day. In fact, my cousin took this photograph on 9/9...perhaps one of the last shots ever recorded of the island with the towers rising above. We know that today is not an easy day for them as the journey of getting back to CA after the attacks was fraught with challenges.

I'm sure many have thoughts that drift to those they know who were present and of course, the searing pain of loss for those who lost a loved one in the attacks makes this day complex.

I have only been to New York city once in my life and it was in January of 2011.
I remember going to ground zero and seeing the construction site where the towers had fallen and where the memorial was being built. I look forward to returning one day soon and seeing the finished spot. I've heard it's beautiful and moving.

Today is my first 9/11 residing in the United States since the attacks. Of course, Facebook and media reports are flooded with remembrances and the church we attended today did a nice job of remembering the tragedy without vilifying the perpetrators. Prayers for peace were offered.

On the 10th anniversary, I had the responsibility of offering the pastoral prayer that morning in our church. I re-print here as I still believe it sums up what I still believe needs prayer.

Sadly, our troubled world is not much more peaceful. Terror still rises up. Misunderstandings between people cause conflicts and incredulously, powers still believe that the pathway to peace is through violence. I will always believe that violence begets violence and that oppression and aggression will always cause a loss of life. But I offer once again my thoughts and prayers from 5 years ago...I believed it then. I believe it now. Peace to those for whom today is an especially hard day. What follows is what I shared 5 years ago at Immanuel International.

Today as we enter into prayer, we do so mindful of the tragic terrorist attacks that unfolded 10 years ago in the United States of America. Perhaps you are unaware that 150 nations lost citizens in those attacks.  The global community felt the sadness and fear that these events unleashed and we desire to remember in prayer today those most deeply affected by these events.  We also acknowledge that many nations of our world suffer terrible atrocities that go unnoticed and uncared for.  We know that our world longs for peace yet feels mired in conflict.  So while we acknowledge the specific events of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, we lift up the themes of reconciliation, understanding, and peace making in our prayers today.  These words from the great hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness set the tone well as we turn our hearts to prayer:

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth 
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! 
Let us pray.

Loving God,
It is indeed your great faithfulness that is stable in our unstable world.  Your grace, your unconditional love, your saving power never change, are always available, and consistently pursue us.  We acknowledge before you today that it is we Lord, who are weak and lacking in faithfulness.  We often allow our fears, our prejudices, and our weaknesses to shape our thinking and control our actions and we ask for your deep forgiveness, that we all might strive to be agents for peace and understanding in our world.  Lord, today we pray for those whose lives have been profoundly affected by acts of terror and greed, hurt by one who would desire to wield inappropriate power over other innocent human beings.  We pray particularly for those most deeply touched by the terrorist attacks in the US 10 years ago, asking you to be present in their loss, comforting in their pain, soothing of their fears.  Lord, we know that it was not only Americans who felt this loss, but also realize that many nations lost citizens and the world became a different place.  Wars have ensued, hatred between people groups has been fostered, protectionist instincts have been nurtured, fears have been established and so dear God today we ask that your love, your ability to heal, your power to reconcile reign in our world today.  Help each one of us Lord, to recognize where in our lives we are cultivating attitudes and actions that are displeasing to you and unfair to another human being, and empower us to take courageous and bold steps towards being a peacemaker, striving for reconciliation, seeking understanding.  God, may we be a people who see humanity as you do, each one beloved, regardless of race, religion, geographic home, economic situation and Lord, rather than focus on fierce nationalism that leads only to further separation, may we each take a step towards being a global community that fosters hope, understanding, care and above all peace.
     We pray for those who use terrorism as a means to accomplish their purposes.  Deep inside we know that anger and disappointment, fear and oppression drive these attitudes and so we do pray dear God, that somehow the light that is Christ will illuminate their pathway and lead them to a different way of expressing their opinion and pursuing action in our world.  Lord, we long for the eradication of evil in our world and know that it is your love and grace that accomplish that.  May we embrace and display both in our daily lives.
     Lord, you are a God who dearly loves humanity, the whole of humanity, and you long for us to live in harmony with one another, no matter our differences.  The similarity that we share is that we are, each one, a beloved creation, shaped and formed in your image. You are the author and perfector of perfect love and harmonious relationships.  You have called us to serve you and to obey you.  And so today we ask for healing where we have been injured.  For calm where anger drives us.  For an open mind when we are tempted to be small, for understanding where there is suspicion.  God, we pray for the safety of those who are most directly in harm’s way.  We pray for the nations of the world to seek understanding of one another rather than seeking for dominion over one another.  And today, we do remember in a special way, the United States of America as a nation, as people gather all over the world to remember the events of 10 years ago that injured so many and left a deep scar on the country. Lord, as we remember, may we look to the ways in which we can bring change, change that points people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and the better way that he shows us how to live together.
     We pray all of these things in Jesus’ name.  Amen.